Eye On Modesto

Thoughts and observations about Modesto and Stanislaus County

Archive for the tag “corrupt business practices”

MID-Gary Soiseth-Gualco Group, Shades of Martino Graphics – It’s Deja vu All Over Again!

By Emerson Drake  

Listening to a Turlock Mayoral forum and Amy Bublak making allegations that Gary Soieseth had started a consulting firm and intended to do business with the potential Turlock water treatment plant, set us on an interesting journey.  Trying to get to the bottom of charges that Gary was intending on doing business with a plant that was still on the drawing board is an uphill battle to say the least, but we did file a (PRR) Public Record Request on October 24th to discover any MID connections to Gary’s new company. We later learned the company’s name in a Bee article,it’s called Central California Advisors.

 

According to documents obtained Gary’s contract negotiations had advanced to the closing stage back in July.  Only his potential contract was with The Gaulco Group as Senior Adviser and not his own company.  As you can see on the first page Gary was expected to start on 10/01/18.  Yet he told the Bee he had already done some work for MID on the Federal licensing of the hydro-electric generator at Dom Pedro Dam.  Strange since the federal lobbying/advisers are another company and that company doesn’t show up in the PRR. 

And now is where it gets interesting.  It the Bee article General Manager Scott Furgerson says “Soiseth had done minimal work on behalf of the MID in his new role.” Yet there is no contract with Gary’s new company or any mention of Gary being added to the Gualco Group and no money trail to date.  MID Public Affairs Spokesperson Melissa Williams spoke with us and verified Gary Soiseth had indeed done some work for MID but is being paid by Gualco, not MID, but she did not have any information regarding the amount of work or money involved.  She also stressed that Gaulco was paying Gary and not MID.  Yet, despite her assertions, if Gualco is using Gary to work for MID then MID meaning WE are footing the bill.

 

For those who don’t remember Martino Graphics, Tom VanGroningen, and MID’s attempted water sale, let me provide a little background.  During the time leading up to the water sale MID kept saying they didn’t have contracts with individuals to support their attempts at selling our water to San Francisco.  They kept denying knowing to whom the money was going even after multiple PRR’s were filed.  Finally they admitted that they had a contract with Martino Graphics for over $234,000 and Martino Graphics had contracts with a variety of local politicos, some of whom came to MID to publicly support the sale.   And now we have MID first denying any contract with Turlock’s Mayor and former MID employee Gary Soiseth, either with his company Central California Advisors or Gualco Group, and yet MID is paying Soiseth through Gualco Group.

 

Remember Nick and Larry fought the underhanded Allen Short and Tom VanGroningen for our water their first year on the Board.  It’s no wonder Directors Nick Blom and Larry Byrd called for an investigation.  First Gary gives his notice and then he changes his mind and delays his departure date. Was it to ensure he gets vested for his five years of service or to give  MID’s General Manager Scott Furgerson time to negotiate his severance package, ie: his new job?  And why is his former boss feathering his future nest?  And now the kicker…employing Gary through Gualco will cost MID an extra $36,135 per year if he gets his raise.  But since it became public his first “special” arrangement goes away but a second one, almost a secret one, delivers the goods.

 

The only way we can see General Manager Scott Furgerson originally supporting  this or pushing forward with this semi-clandestine arrangement is if MID Directors John Mensinger, Paul Campbell, and Stu Gilman are on board.  Which opens the door to another question…what other secrets or surprises are we in store for?

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The House Breaks Covenant Again

By Emerson Drake  

When you decide to start a church you have many choices.  You don’t have to do anything.  You don’t have to involve anyone or any entity, you can go about your own business preaching and praying anyway you choose.  When starting a church many people choose to enter into a covenant with the government to gain a special status.  The status of being a non-profit, which in this case a 501(c)3, means you can raise money and not pay taxes on it and you can give your donors a tax break on their donations which allows them to deduct the donations from their taxable income.  It also means you can start profitable businesses and not pay taxes (like we said a special status.)  But if you choose to enter into this covenant with the government there are rules you must abide by.  These rules allow churches to promote issues BUT these same rules forbid these nonprofits from championing candidates for political office.

It’s really very simple to follow the rules, and the overwhelming majority of churches across the country do it all the time, but The House has repeatedly and deliberately violated the rules of the very covenant they sought out.  Yes churches can allow candidates to speak with the congregation but the operative word here is candidates with an “s.”  The House was aware they broke the rules when they allowed Stu Gilman, a church board member to speak and have tables at the back of the sanctuary for people to sign up to help with his campaign. They made a point of excluding Jake Wenger.  And now they’ve done it again with the two Sheriff’s candidates.

When Jeff Dirkse was introduced to the congregation it was obvious he was the, if you’ll pardon the expression, chosen candidate.  Here is Pastor Glen’s opening comment for a man he admits to just meeting.

Pastor Glen Bertreau, speaking to congregation: “Let me do this before I get started. Jeff Dirske is here – good friend – he is running for sheriff of Stanislaus County, and I met him the other day and what a great brother, meeting him.”  The entire transcript will be posted towards the end of the article.

What’s most important here is that according to Juan Alanis, well lets hear it in his own words…From the Juan Alanis for Sheriff 2018 facebook page answering if he had been asked to speak,  Juan Alanis for Sheriff 2018 responding to Gaetana Rohrer-Drake, “I have reached out to Glen Berteau months ago when I first started campaigning and never received a call back.”

So after watching the video and reading the transcript we decided to go and try to meet with Pastor Glen Berteau in person to ask him a few simple questions regarding his and by extension his church’s actions.

We arrived at 10:30 between 9 and 11 o’clock services.  As we entered the Church we couldn’t help but notice the large ‘We Love Our Pastors’ signs being passed out to all church members.   We had arranged to meet with someone from The House to assist with meeting with Pastor Glen but unfortunately that didn’t happen so instead we worked our way over to the information desk only to be turned back around and go back past their version of ‘Starbucks’  to go to ‘the room’ where you meet with Pastors.  There we met with ‘Pastor Mike’ and his wife.  After explaining the reason for our visit he didn’t know if we would be able to meet with Pastor Glen but would do his best to check.  We went back out to see if we could see anyone one we knew. That is where the picture was taken.  

Fortunately MID Board member and a member of The House’s Board,  Stu Gilman, came to meet with us.  I had met Stu before at an MID meeting.  Stu pointed out that this was a 25th anniversary and Love Our Pastor’s Day.  Pastor Glen leaves the Briggsmore and Coffee address to go to The Church Downtown after the 9 AM service and is back before he takes the stage during the 11 AM service (he isn’t present at the start of the services or necessarily at their ends).  Stu was kind enough to inform us the Pastor was also leaving for Sweden on Tuesday and wouldn’t be back until June, so there probably wouldn’t be time for a conversation before then.

When I walked through the reasons for my trying to get a visit with the Pastor and my concerns about Juan Alanis trying to speak to the congregation Stu said while he couldn’t speak for Pastor Glen, but he himself wasn’t aware of any attempts by Juan or his campaign to contact Pastor Glen or The House in general.  He suggested that if the Alanis campaign had called that maybe the message was lost between the church secretary and the Pastor. “You know how messages can get lost” was his follow-up response.  One thing I can say for sure is that we’ve been trying to contact Pastor Glen since the MID campaign and he has yet to return our calls. It isn’t a requirement that he respond to our call, not by a long shot, but ours aren’t the only calls he’s been dodging.  The multiple complaints against The House by the Freedom From Religion Foundation and private citizens to the I.R.S., hopefully will eventually take their toll.  The list of people calling and getting no response from Pastor Glen and or The House keeps getting longer and longer.

We can’t prove that the Alanis campaign did or didn’t contact The House, but after seeing the effect of Pastor Glen’s support of Stu Gilman (a candidate with no knowledge or expertise in electrical or water issues), in the MID race, it’s hard to believe that the Alanis campaign didn’t reach out to them. One thing for sure is that after the controversy over Stu Gilman’s MID race, The House and Pastor Glen didn’t make his actions (recommending political candidates) blindly and without forethought.

It’s obvious that The House broke its Covenant with its church members and with the People of the United States.  The only way to get them to stop is to repudiate their actions and vote against any candidate they illegally  promote.

The following is a complete transcript of one of the three services at The House where Jeff Dirkse was introduced to the congregation:

Pastor Glen Bertreau, speaking to congregation: Let me do this before I get started. Jeff Dirske is here – good friend – he is running for sheriff of Stanislaus County, and I met him the other day and what a great brother, meeting him. This man here, he graduated from West Point. We don’t have many people from our area from West Point. And got out of West Point. You’ve got to be pretty sharp to even get in, plus graduate, and you come out an officer. Then he went to Iraq, fought in Iraq for us and probably had near-death ex – let me just introduce him. Welcome Jeff, right here. Come on. Give him a big hand. Let’s honor one of our former – one of our soldiers here.

Bertreau to Dirske: Hi, Jeff. God bless you, buddy. Good to have you here. Sandy’s in the back – his wife is back there – they’ve been here all three services. All three services they’ve been here and this is the first time they’ve been over here. Aren’t you glad you came? Wasn’t it fun?

Jeff Dirske: Very much so, thank you.

Bertreau to congregation: And Jeff is – as you know, Adam Christianson, we we know, is retiring, he’s just gonna retire. And so they’re gonna have a new race here, new sheriff’s race and Jeff – I’m gonna let him tell it. I could tell it, but Jeff why don’t you greet our people here, there’s a lot of people that are here at our service. He was here at our 9:00, he went over with me to the Downtown, and now he’s here at this. I said these are all different people here, you don’t know who they are, and so I want you to greet all our people.

Bertreau to Dirske: They all love you.

Dirske to congregation: Well good morning, everyone and thanks for having me – I appreciate the opportunity to be here. And before I talk a little bit I actually want to say thank you – I want to say thank you to the House and this congregation and the church. You have been very supporting of law enforcement over the years and and unfortunately before even the 9:00 service this is not the first time I’ve had to stand in front of you. I’ve had to speak at the death of one of our employees, and on behalf of law enforcement, thank you for that. (applause) So – yeah, please give yourself a hand. So I grew up here in Stanislaus County. My family is in farming, and quite frankly, I thought that that’s what I would do when I grew up. And then in high school I kind of felt a different pull, and I fell the pull towards the military, and I ended up at West Point, as Pastor Glen has already talked about. Graduated from there in 1994 and served 5 ½ years in the U.S. Army the first time. And then some things changed, some family dynamics, my father had cancer, and we felt the pull to come home. And there was kind of a circuitous route, I’m not going to go into the details of that, but we made a couple of stops along the way and we ended up back here farming, all of which we thought is exactly what God wanted us to do, and then September 11th happened. And by 9:00 that morning I knew that I would be back in service somehow. And so then that circuitous route that God took us on became apparent, and the why became apparent, and I ended up commanding a company in Iraq in 2005. (applause) And that was one of the biggest challenges I’ve ever faced in my life.

Bertreau to Dirske: And you’ve had – was it four near – didn’t you have four almost near death – you could have died about four times in Iraq, right?

Dirske to Bertreau: Yes, my vehicle was hit four times by IEDs. The closest one was about 65 pounds going off from me to you. And 65 pounds of explosives is an awful lot. And other than a concussion, I came out unscathed (applause). Thank you.

Bertreau: It’s really a miracle.

Dirske: Thank you. But I bring up Iraq because it was definitely a call, it was God’s call that took us there. I did not have to do that. I had a wife and three kids at home and I was really completely out of the military. And before I went my dad said do you really want to go to war? And I said no, I don’t, but I have to. And that – it was a rough year. But it was also the most rewarding year that I think I’ve ever experienced, because I was doing exactly what God wanted me to do. Now I’m back here, obviously I’ve been in law enforcement now for several years since then, and looking to take this next step. And this, again, is I think exactly where God wants me. And public safety, protecting people is just a calling that I have. It defines who I am. And I know that even though politics is not always the most fun, but my family knows that this is exactly what God wants us to do. So thank you.

Bertreau: So you feel a call. There is a calling. As I would have a calling or you (gesturing to audience) have a calling to do what God wants you to do. There is a calling that is there. There’s really a closeness with law enforcement, that’s just what I feel, because we’re both in an area of helping people, we just help in two different ways. And it is a calling to do what you want to do, to even lay your life on the line every day. But I thank God we have people – and you know what, we talk about this that we need Christian people in areas of influence in our city, right? (applause) So would you just thank Jeff for hearing from God, running for Sheriff, God’s will will be done. Amen. Thanks Jeff, for being here. Appreciate you. Sandy, God bless you.

 

 

 

The Modesto City Council Is At It Again

By Emerson Drake   

The City Council has a special meeting planned for Friday Feb. 2nd at 3 PM. They are going so far that they are hiding upstairs on the second floor in room 2005.  Well at least they aren’t going to taint the downstairs Chamber with their subterfuge. It’s a closed session and the topic is the City Manager position. Our ‘friends’ downtown at City Hall like to sneak in news items on late Friday afternoons so they won’t have to answer questions until Monday. It’s an old trick they’ve taken from national politics. Politicians and their advisers refer to it as the Friday News Dump.  It’s still despicable and reprehensible but just the underhanded kind of move we’ve come to expect, especially from Modesto’s politicians.

I don’t blame them for being embarrassed if they hire Joe Lopez as City Manager. I do hold them accountable for the wishful thinking that somehow Joe Lopez, who most thought of as a terrible Human Resources Manager, would be a quality hire as City Manager that would change the direction the City has been going in for the better.  After all, in Bob Deis report he says most of the Purchase Order irregularities came during  February of 2013 until now,  the time when Joe Lopez was directly responsible for the Finance Dept.

Now on the other hand if they fire him the residents of Modesto would be cheering.

 

Lazy? Inept? Corrupt? and that’s Just the Investigation

By Emerson Drake  

To bring everyone up to speed Modesto Staff spent more than was authorized on City contracts 45 times and counting.  One contract alone was over spent by $2.5 Million Dollars.   Interim City Manager Joe Lopez says don’t worry because he found no evidence of fraud and that the city received the services they paid for.  It’s like you or me authorizing  up to $670 dollars for an auto repair and then without contacting you they find ‘other things wrong” and spent $930 dollars of your money and of course charged you for it except for the fact we’re talking $6.7 Million vs $9.3 Million  If that happened to you you’d feel like you’d been low balled and lied to wouldn’t you?

Once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and the third time is enemy action. But we’re talking 45 times..!  To be fair we borrowed the once is happenstance line from author Ian Fleming but we think it puts the issue/excuses into perspective.  And if you ask any investigator or detective they’ll say they don’t believe in coincidences.

On 12/13/17, Joe Lopez made a presentation to the Finance Committee.  He lists five initial findings.   Here they are in order: 1. Historical and cultural practices which created inconsistencies.  2. Lack of clarity relating to contract administration/procurement process. 3. Lack of communication between Purchasing and managing Departments. 4. Loss of key positions vs. workload. 5. Inappropriate actions taken by staff who increased contract amounts, created contracts, and modified termination dates of contracts without Council approval.

They kind of buried the lead and saved the best/worst for last.  City Staff are very aware that any contracts over $50,000 have to be approved by the City Council. One of their favorite ways to get around this was to let out a contract for less than the $50,000 limit then increase it later.  Some were let out without competitive bidding.  Many were increased with out the bidding process.  And on others they just changed the dates when the contracts expired.

If you’re asking why staff would take inappropriate actions, you’re asking the right question.  Are favors  being exchanged?  Free tickets to the Gallo,  free restaurant gift certificates, golf passes to Pebble Beach, or maybe just some gratis backyard improvements?  Too much business is being conducted outside of 1010 10th Street and in downtown cafes and restaurants(on the cuff of course).

So far the City has refused to name all but a few of the businesses involved and even fewer names of city employees.  Joe Lopez says the City is still reviewing the accounts and amounts.  He does suggest he’ll be more forthcoming at the Jan. 23rd Council meeting.

But can we trust his supposed candor?  Probably not since he’s desperate to keep the stench of impropriety off of him.  And since he was in charge, or at the very least the deputy in charge, and most believe promises were made to him by the Bill Zoslocki trio, it’s important to name no one until the damn breaks and then throw anyone under the bus as long as Joe stays squeaky clean.  Does he care to explain his belonging to the ‘new expensive car of the month club’?

After all, when the fox is guarding the hen house no one has anything to worry about, right?

 

 

Why This MID Election is Important to You

By  Emerson Drake  

Having gone to Modesto Irrigation District (MID) meetings regularly for more than ten years, researched their past, and following them with interest for more than twice that time, that there is no doubt that this election is crucial to MID’s and our future.

When you start to talk about MID people’s eyes have a tendency to glaze over after about 30 seconds, that is unless you are talking to them after they pay an electric bill during a hot spell when they have been using their air conditioning.   The fact is that MID was mismanaged for years by Tom Van Groningen (1993-2013) ,his cohorts on the Board and Allen Short, MID’s General Manager, during those same years.

A short look at MID’s history of business decisions shows an absence of, shall we say, critical thinking. It’s been suggested more than once if they’d flipped a coin instead of being led around by the nose or making the decisions themselves  they could have saved us about $500 Million dollars by the simple chance of the flip. From the geothermal fiasco, to a potential garbage burner to the overpriced (by 30 percent)  McHenry Ave solar farm contract north of town, it was one debacle after another.

Another fact is that a small group of business people led by Bill Lyons, yes the Bill Lyons of Mapes Ranch that wanted to sell our water to San Francisco, have controlled MID’s Board for this same period.  Bill has written checks for $5,000 to his special MID candidates (2 per election)  during contested election years. While his business partners, this year both developers and farmers,  took care of the third MID seat to the same fiscal level. His most recent beneficiaries were Paul Campbell and Jim Mortenson.  Campbell was elected and Mortenson was defeated by Jake Wenger four years ago.

So after they drove into almost $1 Billion dollars in debt what happened next?  Well first of all Larry Byrd, Nick Blom, followed by Jake Wenger two years later,  were elected to the MID Board.  Secondly the cost of natural gas plummeted.  This gave us the profit that people point to.  And what was the prudent course to take?  They started to pay down the debt.

Just as most of us learned as we matured you can’t live off of credit forever so the MID Board did the prudent thing.  It’s not sexy but it is necessary, you have to pay down the debt.  In the past MID, since they aren’t governed by the Public Utilities Commission, had the ability to our raise rates whenever they felt like it.

Our electric rates have been the same since 2011 so if you are feeling the effect of a high electric bill it means you used, like most of us,  a lot of electricity during the 31 days of 100 degree heat recently.

Now we’re faced with the decision of who to elect to the MID Board.  Both men are church going family men and business men.  But politically speaking that’s where the similarity ends. Stu has aligned himself with developers like Paul Zagaris, George Petrulakis, Mani Grewal, and special interest groups like Bill Lyons and company.  Jake has aligned himself with his friends, family, and the average working family.  Stu is a johnny come lately that admits to knowing little but what he’s read in the Bee, and has a penchant for making promises he can’t back up.  Jake has been fiscally responsible when it comes to being our voice on MID and is the most available person I’ve ever known in politics.  As an example if asked a question in person or online he’ll answer it immediately if time permits, and if it doesn’t or you have more questions he’ll give you his personal phone number and either give you the answer or get you the answer to your questions.  Unfortunately Stu isn’t knowledgeable about water or MID at all.  He’s like a one trick pony that looks nice but won’t take you anywhere.

The sound decision to make is to get up off you chair or couch and make sure you vote for Jake Wenger.

 

City Staff’s SNAFU or is it something Worse? The $2.1 M Boondoggle

By Emerson Drake  

The Council meeting last week 9/12/17 was confusing and disconcerting so lets go over the numbers, so we’re all on the same page.

On 9/25/12 the Council authorized a five year contract with Garrett Thompson for hot patch work (street repair from water meter installation and small water main repairs) for $749,700 per year totaling $3.748 Million. Within two years the city had spent 75% of the money. So on 12/9/14 two years into the contract staff came back and asked for and received another $3.1 Million to be added to the original agreement.

On 12/15/15 the Finance staff increased the purchasing authority to $9.6 Million WITHOUT the Council’s approval.  And last week staff tried to slide a $2.2 Million catch-up/increase on the consent calendar on a week when it was known it was going to be a short meeting because the Council had to be in Riverbank for joint meeting with the Riverbank City Council.

First of all it’s almost the old bait and switch. Staff tells the Council that $3.748 Million will pay for five years of hot patches and then the amount spent goes up 250%.  It wasn’t cost overruns or because of change orders like Tony ‘the clueless one’ Madrigal  wondered.  Yes, Garrett was the low cost bidder but the contract was by the square foot and that price didn’t go up, city staff just kept ordering more patches and spending money that hadn’t been authorized.

Deanna Christensen claimed someone had entered erroneous numbers multiple times into the city’s Oracle financial system.  The Oracle system was purchased in 2010 at the cost of $7.4 Million and was supposed to prevent just this kind of problem. And to protect the citizens the questions of whether inducements were offered to make the mistakes or could the missing contract language and oversight be intentional?

Among other questions we have are did staff intentionally put out to bid a RFP that could never cover all the worked scheduled/planned?  Was easier to get Council’s buy in for a much smaller amount than was needed figuring then it would be easy to up the approval in the future? If it was the latter then it worked.

Talk about a lack of trust.    Kristi Ah You asked Mayor Brandvold how the search was coming for an in house auditor. His reply was he’d been working on it the last few weeks. But why the questions about an auditor?  We already have an independent outside firm, Moss Adams, auditing anything they’re asked to audit.  The Council wants someone that reports to them at more than twice the cost and not to the City Manager.  If you don’t trust Joe Lopez, and we don’t, then get rid of him and look outside for someone else.  As an aside you might not want to hire someone that works for the headhunters you hire like you did the last time.

Zoslocki, Kenoyer, and Madrigal all voted for the second expansion of the contract and have been there during the boondoggle.  All of them seemed concerned but appeared to be willing to vote to pay the $306,000 that night (but only Kenoyer was willing to verbalize her thoughts).  Doug Ridenour made some of his usual comments that he doesn’t believe in emotional decisions or feelgood proposals but never actually said what those might be.

Zoslocki claimed he talks with respect and doesn’t let emotion enter into his thinking.  That would have drawn a laugh from the audience the night of the General Plan discussion after he melted down and verbally attacked a speaker who showed Zoslocki was hiding his council communications from the public.  And talking about Kenoyer, there is still the video where she rants “If you work for the city, I’m the boss of you”.

The bottom line is it doesn’t take 10 to 12 weeks to discover how and when the erroneous changes were inputted.  It doesn’t take 10-12 weeks to know who was involved.  You don’t get a contract from the city and not know how much it’s worth. For trying to slide this by on consent, Joe Lopez should be gone.  Zoslocki, Kenoyer, and Madrigal by their actions and disconnect don’t deserve to be on the Council.  All three would like nothing better than to have this be swept under the rug until after the elections. And last but not least Garrett Thompson should not be allowed to bid in the current RFP.   People need to be held accountable starting with our elected officials.

 

 

 

The Bee’s Jeff ‘the slimeball’ Jardine, First He Creates the News and Then He Writes about It

By Emerson Drake   recallbirgit

While this is far from the first time the Modesto Bee has allowed one of their employees to attack people in print it should be the last.  Some have questioned  if this was ‘slime ball’s’ idea or if it was spawned by one of his editors, I suggest either way it needs to stop and stop NOW.  Papers caught creating news can’t be trusted.  Public Record Requests are a wonderful tool when attempting to seek out the smoking gun of Hypocrisy. Jardine’s story  isn’t a case of the misuse of public money or the public’s trust.  No he’s made it personal and vindictive in our opinion.

 

Former Mayor Carmen Sabatino has been trying to point out that Stanislaus County D.A. Birgit Fladager through her minions has withheld exculpatory evidence (and yes the AJ Pontillo was subsequently  found innocent) and was more recently caught withholding discovery from the Carson defense team.  A  District Attorney withholds evidence that clears a mans name is in the minds of most people despicable and now to be caught for the second, or is it the third time, hiding evidence form the defense means Stanislaus County Court rooms can hardly be called a bastion of justice.

 

Jardine has use an informative sign as an excuse to attack our former Mayor at his place of business.   Jeff creates the story, he writes the story, and pronounces guilt in the story.  But Jeff, you’re the one that’s guilty here.

 

By Mayor Carmen Sabatino

Below is an official public records transcript between a Modesto Bee reporter, Jeff Jardine and a Caltrans employee, Rick Estrada.      The press is supposed to REPORT the news, not act in desperate protagonist measures to CREATE news, and then innocently report on their creation.

Jeff Jardine, the National Enquirer is calling – they need a gumshoe to report on alien abductions and bat-faced vampires lurking about.

January 10, 2017 at 11:19am FROM Rick Estrada TO Jeff Jardine

Jeff, you noted you were going to be out of the office for some time, so I felt an e-mail would serve best.

Regarding the Changeable Message Sign we were discussing on McHenry Avenue/State Route 108 in

Modesto:

** I have spoken to maintenance unit confirmed it is not a Caltrans sign

** I have spoken to maintenance unit and confirmed the sign is in the public right of way

** I have spoken to our permits unit and confirmed there is no permit issued for this sign

As a result, one of managers from the maintenance unit will visit this location and advise the owner of the sign that it must be removed immediately from the public right of way. If the sign is not moved following our visit, the next step is we will contact CHP and ask for law enforcement to get involved in resolving this situation.

Safety is always a priority for Caltrans. Our goal is to keep the state’s highways in the best, and safest, condition for motorists.

Regarding the use of a CMS sign when it is not in the public right of way? I would ask that you please call Caltrans’ Outdoor Advertising Unit, specifically Michele Day who oversees Stanislaus and other counties.  Her number is (916) 651-1254 and this is her realm of expertise. If she does not respond, her supervisor is James Arbis (oversees NorCal) and he is at (916) 654-6413.

 

January 10, 2017 at 12:52pm FROM Jeff Jardine TO Rick Estrada

It was not there when I drove by a few minutes ago. Maybe the rental company wanted it out of the rain.

 

January 10, 2017 at 12:57 FROM Rick Estrada TO Jeff Jardine

J=happyface

 

January 10, 2017 at 1:21PM FROM Jeff Jardine TO Rick Estrada

What about, as you mentioned, putting out a sign that looks like a CalTrans sign but bears a political message?

A violation of any sort?

January 10, 2017 at 1:23PM FROM Rick Estrada to Jeff Jardine

That’s where Outdoor Advertising comes in. We have a unit stationed at our HQ that deals with ‘advertising’ signs of this sort … I included a name and 2 phone numbers of potential contacts who can give you more concise information.

If they don’t get back to you, let me know and I’ll pull the chain. Hope everything’s going well Glad to see the sign is gone

J=happyface

 

January 11th, 2017 at 11:16AM FROM Jeff Jardine to Rick Estrada

OK, so Michelle said that if an unauthorized sign is reported, a maintenance crew would go out and seize it, informing whomever that they have 30 days to come pick it up at the yard. So can you tell me if that sign was seized or direct me to someone locally who can answer that question.

Mr. Sabatino claimed I was disrespecting him by even calling him.

 

January 11th, 2017 at 11:22AM FROM Rick Estrada to Jeff Jardine

I spoke with our Modesto Maintenance manager, who visited the location yesterday afternoon. When he got there, the

CMS sign was already gone – having been moved by someone other than Caltrans.

City might have stepped in? Or perhaps owner was told by someone else to move it … I had checked with our guys this morning

 

January 11th, 2017 at 11:25AM FROM Jeff Jardine to Rick Estrada

Thanks. Some folks posted pics of it on FB, and his PI buddy wrote about it on Carmen’s blog…..

Birgit Fladager – Guilty of Malfeasance?

By Emerson Drake  birgitfladager
December isn’t a good month for District Attorney. Birgit Fladager. On December 10, 2014, A.J. Pontillo was found innocent of all charges. During the trial Birgit was caught withholding exculpatory evidence that showed he was innocent.  Yes she KNEW he was innocent but hid the evidence from the court.
Now in the Frank Carson case one of her Deputy D.A.’s had to admit they hadn’t delivered all of the discovery evidence they should have. First Birgit is papering judges (punitive judge shopping) that don’t give her the rulings she wants, then her trumped up charges against A.J. go by the wayside and now she’s been caught again with her hand in the cookie jar.  Where is she now? She’s hiding out of town with family, unwilling to face the camera’s and explain why her office is incompetent and vindictive.
Here is his quote: Deputy District Attorney John Goold, spokesman for the DA’s Office, issued a statement Thursday afternoon that read in part: “While auditing discovery in this case, one of our investigators located some audio recordings that may or may not have been provided within the previous 1,000 disks discovered to the defense. There was no time to confirm whether these recordings had been previously disclosed or not. Out of an abundance of caution, we raised that concern with the court this morning and copies were provided to defense counsel.
Yesterday the judge released Frank on his own recognizance.
It’s becoming more readily apparent that Birgit Fladager is out of control and is using her office to punish her “enemies”. After all Frank ran against her for office. We think we elected the wrong person to be D.A.

Did the Bee Engage in Voter Suppression?

By Emerson Drake  dontbesilent

On Election Day morning, the Bee’s headline read: Clinton has Clinched, AP Delegate survey says. Now on election day, using the reasoning (defective reasoning in our view), that this was ‘real news’, I was told by a high ranking editor at the Bee, that they felt it was important to report.  I was even told they questioned the AP’s timing of the release of the poll, but they felt the need to report it anyway.   How can this headline be construed as anything but a blatant attempt to convince voters that going to vote for a Presidential nominee was an exercise in futility.

Quite honestly, reporting a ‘poll’ released by another news organization (Associated Press) on election day smacks of irresponsible behavior and extremely poor judgement to us. It doesn’t matter which candidate you supported, having our local paper suggesting they were doing the ‘right thing’ especially at a time when we all should be doing everything we can to get voters involved, is ludicrous

Adding even more shame to their actions they didn’t make the story available on Modbee.com or on their Facebook page making commenting on their actions impossible. Agree or disagree with what you read on the Bee’s Editorial Page, to place this story on the front page above the fold was a deliberate act that should have negative consequences to whomever made the decision.

When a newspaper uses its power and manipulates the public to create news instead of reporting it, it becomes just a piece of paper, a piece of paper suitable for the bottom of birdcages, wrapping fish and designating a place for the dog to go.

More Foul Play From the Chamber and Their Minions

By Emerson Drake   stealingmoney
Joan Trombetta Clendenin wrote a letter to the editor today against Marsh that isn’t available onliine yet that attacks Marsh. I find this interesting since it was her company Clendenin Byrd, a bookkeeping company that has election experience, connection to the Chamber and their No on Measure Committee that first broke election laws by failing to report thousands of dollars in LARGE election campaign contributions on a timely basis. By hiding their contributions they broke FPPC rules for clean elections and now she’s berating Marsh.
 
Unfortunately this is just another example of how far the Chamber of Commerce and their minions will go to promote special interest groups intent on taking money out of our pockets and placing it in theirs.
 
And maybe even more importantly it brings into question the Bee’s culpability in the outcomes of both ballot decisions. For that we’ll have to wait and see.

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